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Essex Field Club
Essex Field Club
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Socketts Heath Gravel Pit (site of), GRAYS, Thurrock District, TQ623792, Historical site only

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Site category: Palaeolithic site

Historical site only


Site description

Piggs Corner, at the junction of Southend Road and Lodge Lane at Socketts Heath, was almost certainly the site of a former a gravel pit that produced €œfairly abundant€ Palaeolithic flint implements and a number of interesting glacial erratics at the beginning of the twentieth century. About 16 feet of evenly bedded gravel could be seen in the pit, containing boulders of €˜ironstone€™, basalt and pebbes of €˜schorl-rock€™, the latter no doubt derived from Cornwall. Large sarsen stones were also found, some of them weighing €œseveral hundredweights€. The pit was visited by the pioneering archaeologist Worthington G. Smith in 1887 who reported in a letter to the Essex Naturalist a sarsen stone here, which was later recorded as being 5€™8€ by 2€™8€ in size with a mammilated surface.

The pit was apparently also notable for seams of gravel and sand stained by black manganese oxide. A sketch of a section through the gravel at Socketts Heath Pit can be seen in the Essex Naturalist (Hinton & Kennard 1898). The pit was also visited by a party from the Geologists€™ Association in 1901. The gravel is Orsett Heath Gravel, from the oldest and highest of the Thames terraces, and laid down by the River Thames some 380,000 years ago in the middle of the Ice Age.

There is still some confusion about the sources of flint implements from this area (usually labelled simply as €˜Orsett Heath€™ by collectors) and even the location of the Socketts Heath Pit. There were several small gravel pits in this area and Gibbard (1994) places the pit closer to Hangman€™s Wood at TQ 629 794. However, the pit that formerly existed at Piggs Corner is clearly marked on the 1920 Ordnance Survey map and best matches the descriptions. The site has now been completely built over.

Socketts Heath Gravel Pit in 1901. Photo © British Geological Survey (P239412).


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Reference: Cole 1888, Hinton & Kennard 1898, Hinton & Kennard 1901, Gibbard 1994 (p. 30).

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